FBI Director James Comey repeatedly referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal animus to Hillary Clinton as one of the major motivations in Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election during congressional testimony Tuesday.
Comey described how Putin “hated Hillary Clinton so much” he developed a preference for President Donald Trump. Comey deployed a sports metaphor, saying, “I hate the New England Patriots, and no matter who they play, I’d like them to lose.”
His statements echo the main findings of the Jan. 6 U.S. intelligence community’s report on Russian attempts to undermine the 2016 election. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency,” the report’s key judgement found.
Comey’s statement and the report’s key judgement contradict major media reports that Putin’s primary aim was to help the Trump campaign, and discount the role of Putin’s feelings regarding Clinton. The FBI director in part deployed his New England Patriots analogy to walk back such accusations.
Comey described how Putin’s campaign to denigrate Clinton accelerated after Trump won the Republican presidential nomination, an assertion which is also found in the Jan. 6 report, “Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”
Former President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Russia Michael McCaul confirmed he shared this feeling to NBCNews in December, saying that Putin “has had a vendetta against Hillary Clinton, that has been known for a long time because of what she said about his elections back in the parliamentary elections of 2011.”
Russia’s government did not even believe Trump would win the election, by the intelligence community’s own admission, and focused the latter part of its influence campaign towards undermining Clinton’s future presidency.
Putin’s vendetta against Clinton stem from her 2011 remarks as U.S. secretary of state alleging widespread fraud in Russia’s 2011 parliamentary elections. He became so incensed by Clinton’s remarks, that he accused her of trying to meddle, saying her comments gave a “signal” to his opponents. He told reporters in 2011 that leaders of the opposition tried to undermine him “with the support of the US state department began active work.”
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